Business Strategy

Don’t Be Afraid to Sponsor Employee Learning

Recently I was talking to someone about the benefits of paying for employees to attend conferences. His thought was that it may not be worth spending money on conferences because the employees eventually leave the company and take the knowledge with them.

While I understand the frustration a company feels when an employee leaves, the truth is that it is very hard to hold onto employees forever, especially your superstars. The best you can do is to help these employees grow and be glad for the time that you do have them.

This is the reality of modern business–the loyalty model has been decimated by both sides. Employment is now a limited-time transaction. That doesn’t mean that you throw the baby out with the bathwater by turning your back on employee learning.

Is Your Company a Hunter or a Farmer?

Companies that succeed are constantly learning, constantly hunting. In his book Better and Faster, Trendhunter CEO Jeremy Gutsche encourages companies to adapt a hunter mentality.

As Gutsche theorizes, companies that are hunters are insatiable, always striving to improve. They are curious, looking for new ideas. They are destructive, willing to destroy their old models to try new things.

Many companies have grown complacent, however, and fall into what Gutsche describes as the farmer mentality. This is a mentality of complacence, protectiveness and repetition. It is companies that think, “We’ve been doing it this way for a long time and we’ve done pretty well, so why change anything?”

Here’s Gutsche talking about how Smith Corona was ultimately killed by their farmer mentality.

The point of this is that you can’t operate a company from a position of fear or defensiveness. You have to be open to and hungry for new ideas. Otherwise, you will end up being the best typewriter company in a world that doesn’t use typewriters.

Part of being hungry is encouraging your employees to grow, learn and build their own brands. By encouraging them to bring those new ideas into the workplace the learning trickles down to everyone.

When you encourage employee learning, you are not just investing in them, you are investing in the future of your company. You’re creating a hunter environment–one that prizes growth, risk taking and not settling for being “good enough”.

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